Music and Spirituality

See More in the Position of Spiritualism in Music

Over the centuries music has been a medium for knowing nature and god – what the philosopher Plato called “mimesis”. Throughout the history of the great civilizations in the world, music has an important role as part of community rituals. The treasures of the Assyrians’ heritage stated that the music performed in various ceremonies is a symbol of the glory of the ceremony. The music is also a symbol of happiness, if it is played on the celebrated holidays. All offerings are praised and sanctified with songs, all offerings are glorified with beautiful tunes. All the sweet melodies made at the altar offerings are the same as praying in the temples, as if the incense is burned, which symbolizes the power of God.

The Greeks and Romans regarded music as the Great God they worshiped. They erected temples, beautiful altars, as a place for the most beautiful sacrifices. They say that the stringed sounds of the Apollo God string bounce off the sounds of nature. The sound that symbolizes sorrow is reflected from the chirping of birds, the rush of water, the wind and the gentle rustling of the branches of trees. For them, the sound of the Apollo string is an echo of nature.
In the folklore of the Greeks, told a music expert named Orpheus. When Orpheus plucked the strings, the whole universe was blown away. When Orpheus lost his lover, then he lamented by strumming until his sad song filled the forest. Nature joined in crying over her sadness. Even the gods feel sorry for him so open the door of eternity for him to be able to meet the lover in the spirit realm. Then the forest dwellers who were disturbed by the sound of the music, killed Orpheus. They threw their heads and instruments into the sea. The head and the instrument floated on the waves until they finally reached an island. The Greeks called it the Island of Chanting. Still according to the tale, the waves that escorted the head of Orpheus and his musical instruments joined in lamenting and whimpering until his voice filled the horizon, heard reaching the ears of the sailors.

Islamic civilization also knows music as a means to get to know God. Persian music is a form of Islamic art that is very thick with the patterns and practices of Sufism. As a dimension of Islamic spirituality Sufism adopted Persian music and other forms of music to be a means of achieving spiritual goals, namely accessing to God.

From Arkoun’s understanding above, that spirituality has a very broad and very complex interpretation and interpretation. Arkoun sees that there is a relationship between spirituality and almost everything we find in everyday life, including music. The close relationship between music and spirituality has been going on for centuries and is practiced by people in the great civilizations of the past.

At the beginning of civilization, music was part of a special ritual and ritual (sacrificing), before then entering the modern era which gave rise to music such as Mozart and Beethoven which “reduced” music as part of the modernity of the bourgeoisie at that time (representing). Then after the industrial revolution and the spread of capitalism, music is no different from being an extension of the ideology of capitalism and begins to lose its “aura” and “authenticity” through the presence of various recording technologies such as CDs, cassettes, or records (repeating and composing). Now music as part of the cultural industry cannot be separated from our daily lives. Music (art) at the time of capitalism was criticized by cultural critics such as Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno.

The relationship of music – or musicians – to spirituality does not only stop in the past when the great civilization considers music as a medium of ritual / sacrificing. The awakening of spirituality in music also began to rise in the current era of capitalism. In the mid 1960s, for example, we found out how the world’s pop musicians (and their fans) were fond of the world of eastern spirituality (we could, for example, find in the music of The Beatles). The so-called “hippies” embraced Zen (Buddhism) and Hindusme. They are crazy about and look for spirituality through drugs and music that mixes elements of eastern spirituality as a form of rebellion against the establishment and spirituality of the Western style.

In the era of entertainment industry capitalism as it is now, music has become a very large wheel of capitalism. We can see how stretched the music industry in attracting the desires of consumerism, including Islamic music. We can see how when stepping pop bands suddenly release singles or albums with spiritual nuances. The goal is clear, not in order to spread Islamic values ​​but to reap profits. These musicians may also fall asleep in capitalism. Finding spirituality in music today is indeed not easy – if not called impossible.

The relationship between music and spirituality, for me, has a very broad dimension. Because, in my opinion, whatever the music, has a dimension of “spirituality”. Perhaps today music is only limited to “secular spirituality” – music is only a matter of fun, leisure, banal, and a place to find material. Music as a work of art that is in the midst of us today is not present to remind us of Him. The context of entertainment and popular fills more in the world of music itself. However, not necessarily music as a medium of communication is to blame. Finding “spirituality” in music today is a complicated issue because we are deceived by the glamor of the frenetic capitalism. Sometimes I find that “spirituality” in different bodies. Those who still believe and appreciate music as an effort to change and recognize their environment and humanity. It could be from those buskers who make music as capital, they make a living, from music friends who with integrity continue to work to make criticism, or from musicians who still believe music as a means of social change for their environment.

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